Elvis or The Beatles; Designers Decide

“Now I’m gonna ask you a bunch of quick questions I’ve come up with that more of less tell me what kind of person I’m having dinner with. My theory is that when it comes to important subjects, there’s only two ways a person can answer. For instance, there’s two kinds of people in this world, Elvis people and Beatles people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis. And Elvis people can like The Beatles. But nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells me who you are.”

This famous line from Pulp Fiction got Donovan over at Be A Design Group thinking; what equivalent questions would one designer ask of another? Here’s what he came up with, as well as my answers and justifications for why I answered the way I did.

Sans or Serif? – Sans in almost all situations unless serif is required for stylistic reasons, or in the case of long body copy.

Coated or Uncoated? – Uncoated. I’m a huge fan of the aesthetic achieved by the reflective ink on a matte paper.

Gray or Grey? – Grey. My spelling of this colour is most likely a product of my British colonial (South African) upbringing.

Nano or Shuffle? – Shuffle (2G). The Nano is nice and all, but to be honest I very rarely listen to music in any way other than shuffle mode. This combined with the Shuffle’s diminutive size and sexy looks make it the clear winner in my book.

InDesign or Quark? – InDesign. People still use Quark?

Photograph or Illustration? – Photograph. While both have their uses in different situations, I’m a much better photographer than illustrator.

Justified or Ragged? – Ragged, ideally carefully done to ensure minimal variation between line length.

Symmetry? – Asymmetry, but balanced. Symmetry is boring.

Emboss or Deboss? – Emboss. Not too pronounced though; something along the lines of the letter-pressed look.

RGB or CMYK? – CMYK. This is kind of a silly question, as both are used for very different purposes. However, I work with print more often than working with on-screen stuf

Note: To try and keep with the idea that, “nobody likes them both equally,” I limited myself to answering either one way or the other. In reality though, to be a good designer, one has to be able to adapt to the situation and use all possible tools to accomplish the task at hand.

Stranger Than InfoVis

Stranger Than Fiction Information VisualizationI had the chance last night to see the new Will Ferrell flick, Stranger Than Fiction. In the film, Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a strictly regimented IRS agent living in Chicago whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers that every event in his life is decided by the pen of an omnipotent author.

To illustrate Harold’s almost purely systematic and mathematical thought processes, director Marc Forster (of Monster’s Ball fame) hired (links to video) Kansas City new media firm MK12 to create a series of animated information graphics integrated into much of the first fourth of the film. The graphics conspire with Ferrell’s excellent acting to create a refreshing new take on the way cinema communicates information and plot.

I highly recommend Stranger Than Fiction not only as a case study of innovative information graphics, but as a fantastic film that allows Ferrell to take a break from his comedy typecast and appear in a more serious character study.

Keeping Score

Keeping Score Interface

Produced by the San Francisco Symphony, Keeping Score is a project designed to, show that classical music can speak to everyone and instill a lifelong love of music through the use of pervasive media.

Part of the Keeping Score initiative are interactive flash websites showcasing selected classical masterpieces, and the history and music theory behind them. The works of Aaron Copland, Beethoven’s Eroica, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring are brought to life through companion sites featuring embedded audio and video, as well as interactive musical notation, wrapped up with an elegant design.

The Keeping Score companion sites are, in my opinion, some of the best examples of the proper way to use flash technology. Many designers use flash in places where it is truly un-needed and simple javascript or CSS would do. Others use flash as an excuse to create awkward non-standard interfaces that are not only hard to navigate, but hard on the eyes. With great power comes great responsibility, and Rolling Orange, who produced the Keeping Score site, wielded the power of flash to stunning ends. Mixing classic typographic design and digital-multimedia, these sites have earned a prominent place in my personal design archive, and I would argue they deserve a place in yours as well.

Chloroflot 2006 Design Salary Survey

Rockstar Designers
Chloroflot.com has just published it’s 2006 Design Salary Survey, in which they asked different types of designers all over the world how much they rake in every year. To my surprise, Hong Kong towers over the rest of the world in times of the kind of living the average designer makes, a whopping $93,607 salary. The survey also breaks down salary by experience level and specialization, with design directors of interactive agencies making almost $70k more a year than entry level graphic designers.

Currugated Cardboard Laptop Case

For this fall’s [re]Design exhibit in London, Giles Miller of Farm Designs decided to put a sustainable spin on something many of us use and rely on every day; the common laptop case. Taking cues from Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Side chair, Miller designed and built an elegant and sturdy looking carrier for his Apple PowerBook computer out of nothing more than every day recycled currugated cardboard and some scrap leather. Although the piece might not be the most practical of cases, it once again shows that sustainable and environmentally friendly design can be just as functional and beautiful as products concieved of less green ideals.


Ikea TROFE Cofee Mug

Ikea Cup

Possibly the least expensive and most innovative products from Norse furniture powerhouse Ikea is the TORFE coffee mug. What at first glance seems to be a simple ceramic mug hides a cunning piece of industrial design that solves a problem almost everyone has had to deal with; water pooling in the base of an upturned cup after washing. TORFE solves this issue with a small notch that allows water to trickle down the side instead of stagnating up top.

TORFE is avialable for US$0.50 from Ikea outlet stores or online.
[via OhGizmo!]